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Aborted ODM Party Elections – A Spectacle in Kenyan Political Theatre

By Matunda Nyanchama, PhD

The Kenyan political scene never ceases to surprise and amuse at any one time. No one can predict the next interesting and entertaining episode. We have had many in the recent past such as the Tower of Babel like government pronouncements about Westgate and the Standard Gauge Rail Project, among others. The National Assembly is always a sure source of fun for those who care to watch happenings in the August House. And to the mix the Senate and the tussle with governors and you are sure to be thoroughly entertained. Top it up with Legislature and Executive competition with the Judiciary and one has a full course “meal” of showbiz.ODM Party Election Chaos

The most recent such episode is the aborted Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party elections slated for February 28th, 2014. Here, smartly-dressed individuals openly, and without shame in the glare of cameras, overturned tables and in the process spilling election material all over the election ground! It was a spectacle to behold! Foreigners watching would term this an African brand of democracy!

If one were looking for an example of impunity look no farther than in the disrupters’ arrogant actions. Their displayed attitude betrayed this impunity: wapende wasipende (like it or not) the election will NOT happen! One could even discern the subliminal message: uta do? (Sheng for: and you will do?)

The party leadership has promised a thorough investigation of what happened. Party membership and a large swathe of Kenyan citizens are eagerly waiting for the results and what actions the party would take. The party has a large number of well-wishers and many Kenyans hope that the damage inflicted by the actions is reparable and that it can pick up the pieces and rebuild from here.

Many questions   have arisen since the sad, entertaining spectacle: who plotted the chaos and what was the motive?

Two schools of thought have emerged:  (a) there are party diehards that fear losing control of the party and (b) there are enemies (other political parties) whose interests are aided by a weakened ODM.

A few weeks ago, some so-called party founders swore never to let go of control of the party, placing loyalty to the party leader at the centre of their criteria for the election. Would they have planned the chaos in the face of potential loss of control?

On the other hand there had been allegation of moles in the party. Indeed, one leading candidate for the position of Secretary General was accused of being such a mole, acting at the behest of external forces, other parties. Those of this opinion point to the lavish campaigns of the candidate and his team and ask where all the money (hiring choppers and the like) came from.

But that is for history to affirm or dispute.ODM Party Election Chaos-a

That said, many Kenyans will be disappointed if the party were to be weakened beyond repair. Some of these sentiments are out of nostalgia given the party’s roots: the 2005 rebellion against a constitution that went against the wishes of the majority! The triumph was against the “establishment”, well-heeled, moneyed class at the centre of national power since independence. It is a triumph that gave ODM a grassroots touch and appeal.

It is this charm that has underlined the party’s impressive showing in the last two general elections, one of which was at the centre of the post-election violence in 2007/2008, when the party claimed the elections were stolen.

It is in the interest of Kenya to have a strong ODM. A strong opposition party means that Kenyans have an alternative to turn to should things go sour with the ruling coalition. A strong opposition party, as one Daniel Arap Moi said back in the 1960s (though his actions while in power were contrary), is necessary to check the excesses of government and hence of benefit to the citizen.

But there are troubling questions to ask of the ODM party: how do Kenyans get the confidence that they can govern a nation of 40 million Kenyans when they cannot conduct an election of 2,900 delegates? How does the party run an election of 14 million registered voters if they cannot do the same for a much, much smaller number of delegates?

These are troubling questions. For instance, the party intelligence should have known that there was a possibility of disruption. And if they did, why was no action taken to avert the chaos and damage thereof? And given they did not pre-empt the chaos can one then read complicity of the party machinery in the mess?

Finally, other parties competing with ODM would gladly hand it a rope to hang itself! A weak ODM is in the interest of its competitors!ODM Party Election Chaos-b

Knowing all this, what steps did the party take to deal with possible infiltration? If this were the case, it would have been prudent to suspend the elections until further notice to give it time to deal with this threat.

For the onlookers, we haven’t seen the last of this story. We can only expect more from the political theatre! Sadly though, as entertaining as this may be, the impact on Wanjiku is real. A disorganized political order merely amplifies this impact on ordinary Kenyans.

Dr Matunda Nyanchama is an ICT Professional, Book Publisher, past candidate for Governor of Nyamira County and retired President of the Kenyan Community Abroad (KCA).


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